Who is Philip Yang? And why is he in Rapid City, South Dakota (for 6 months)?


Hello everyone!! My name is Philip Fan Yang. The featured photo above of bison was taken on the Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park during my first weekend in Rapid City.

I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and moved to the US when I was four. I grew up in Plattsburgh, NY on Lake Champlain all the way (and I mean all the way!) at the top of New York State. The Adirondack Park is a 40-minute drive south. As a child, I loved being outside and exploring nature on my bike. There wasn’t much to do when your high school class had only 30 kids – my passions became the great outdoors and basketball.

Philip at the South Dakota – Minnesota border on January 30, 2022.

My childhood love for the outdoors and interest in science led me to study biology as an undergraduate at Villanova University. There, I joined the research group of Dr. Sam Chapman, a mangrove and wetland ecologist. I spent four years learning under her mentorship and growing as a scientist. I participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates and completed a senior thesis on boat wake spatial impacts in small estuary channels in the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and a minor in Geography in May 2021. I was awarded an open study/research Fulbright grant to do fisheries research in the Philippines in 2021-’22 that was postponed due to COVID-19. That’s pretty much a quick summation of my academic and professional accomplishments to date. If you would like to know a little more about my story check out this story map!

In my free time, I like to get outside and hike/backpack. I love basketball and seek out pick-up games where I can find them. I also really enjoy reading and writing.

Resource Assistant Program – US Forest Service

Last week I moved from Plattsburgh, NY to Rapid City, SD. The drive took 27 hours including rest stops and one nap. I moved to Rapid City to start my 6-month internship with Environment for the Americas and the US Forest Service as a Biological Science Technician for the Rocky Mountain Research Station. My mentor is Dr. Jacqueline Ott, a research ecologist who specializes in grassland and shrubs. She works with the Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems project. As a technician, my duties will entail data management, experimental set-up and maintenance, data collection, and other tasks to improve our understanding of climate change impacts on grassland ecosystems. I am excited about this learning experience! I also am looking forward to getting my hands dirty with fieldwork! So far, I have really enjoyed what I have seen of South Dakota and Rapid City.

USDA Mystic Ranger Station. Black Hills National Forest. Forest & Grassland Research Laboratory. Rocky Mountain Research Station. Rapid City, South Dakota.
Philip at the Research Station before work starts.


After working as an intern for the US Forest Service, I intend to return to school as a graduate student to do research on marine and coastal ecosystems. I would love to be based somewhere in the Northeast to be closer to family. Eventually, I would like to become a research scientist at a National Estuarine Research Reserve or work for NOAA. I look forward to sharing my experiences in South Dakota on here!

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